Greek Isles & Adriatic Voyage
Saturday July 2 to Tuesday July 5, 2016

The City of Canals

With our cruise ending in Venice we thought this would be a great opportunity to extend our stay to be able to explore and enjoy this unique city. In 2006 we felt like we didn’t get to see as much of Venice as we had wanted to have done - mostly because of some travel delays that shortened the already short visit to Venice back then. It felt like 10 years later we would be able to rectify that with Azamara Journey arriving in Venice on Saturday July 2 and overnighting in Venice before we would disembark on Sunday. Then we'd transition to a hotel for a couple of nights before heading back to Canada on Tuesday July 5.

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  • Saturday July 2, 2016

    Sail into Venice, boat trip to Murano and Burano

    Arrival in Venice was scheduled for 1:00pm which would give us a wonderful daytime approach to this spectacular city. The afternoon arrival time also meant we'd have a somewhat relaxed morning ahead of that. We set the schedule for our morning to make it to a Jazz Brunch Buffet in the Discoveries Restaurant starting at 10am. The food choice was spectacular and the atmosphere was great. After brunch we wandered a little bit then made our way to the open Deck 10 to get ready for the sail into Venice.

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      The railing edge on Deck 10 was beginning to fill with people doing the same thing - finding a spot to get a good view. By the time we reached the outskirts of Venice the railing edge was completely full. The view coming it Venice was truly spectacular with the only downside being that it was a bit overcast. That still couldn't rob Venice of its beauty. It was a memorable entrance into the city. Azamara Journey docked marginally closer to the city than where the big ships would dock. We had hoped it would have been a bit closer but in reality it didn't make too much difference for us. We were told it would have been about a 40 minute walk to Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square) - we never ended up testing that estimate.

      For this our first afternoon in Venice we took a tour of the two islands Murano and Burano. To get there we needed to board a small boat for the ride backtracking across Venice then out through the twisty waterway marked out with bollards in the lagoon (Laguana Venta) on the way to Murano. It was a pleasant enough trip but the sky was appearing more and more gloomy as the day went on. That gloom might have added to the general grubbiness of the look of Murano - with many of the old building looking somewhat rundown. Maybe it would have looked better on a brighter day. Murano is, of course, well known for its glass making and no trip to Murano would be complete without a demonstration of their glass making. That industry in Murano dates back to the late 13th century when the Venetian Republic ordered glassmakers out of Venice because of fear of fire. It was fascinating to watch a glass blowing master at work making two pieces with what looked like grace and ease. The shop associated with the glass factory where we watched the display had some impressive pieces on display with some equally impressive prices. Even some of the small pieces for sale there were expensive compared to the same or similar pieces that could be purchased in Venice itself.

      Leaving Murano we again travelled by boat to the Island of Burano. Its claim to fame goes back to the 16th century when it became known for its lace made by hand with a needle - beautiful but so very labour intensive. The general look and feel of Burano is quite different than that of Murano with many of the Burano buildings being painted in solid bright colours. The colours, by the way, are regulated by the government to maintain the look of the island. If we were going to pick one of the two islands just to wander around it would be Burano. Linda watched a lace making demonstration in one of the local lace shops while Gary wandered around taking some photos and once the demonstration was over we continued our walking tour of this quant island. Quite enjoyable.

      The return trip to Azamara Journey was interesting in that we got to witness a fact about the Venetian Lagoon - that it is quite shallow outside of the waterways marked by bollards. Off in the distance at times it was easy to spot vegetation growing up out of the water, but on the return trip we passed a small boat just outside the waterway with people standing in the water to the side of the boat - with the water level being at about mid-shin. Shallow indeed. Only the marked waterways are dredged to allow larger vessels to travel freely. Our boat stopped right outside the hotel we had booked for our post cruise stay to allow some people to get off spend the evening in Venice but with our extended stay we figured to return to Azamara Journey directly this time.

      We arrived back onboard the ship at about 7:00pm and got ourselves ready for dinner on the final evening of the cruise. We started with a return visit to Spirits on Deck 5 and were pleased to see Pitoon behind the bar. Some more Taittinger for the perfect start to our dinner. By about 8:00pm we made our way to dinner and Discoveries Restaurant. It was a wonderful meal to finish off a wonderful cruise. With it being the last night we returned to our room to pack & set out our 2 main bags for collection by 11:00pm. Always a sad feeling comes over one at this point, but we were looking forward to the remainder of our time in Venice.

  • Sunday July 3, 2016

    Checking into Hotel Londra Palace and a walking tour of Venice

    For our final morning on the ship we were up about 6:30am and the view outside our balcony was of a foggy and rainy Venice. It was at this point that we realized that our raincoats and umbrellas were in our luggage that was likely already sitting somewhere on the pier. The good news was that by the time we made it to breakfast at 7:15am it did look as if the day was clearing.

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      We had arranged for a private water taxi from Azamara Journey to Hotel Londra Palace so our departure time of 9:10am was set to accommodate that. We were required, though, to vacate our room by 8:30am so that the staff could start to prepare for the passengers that would board to start the next cruise. We relaxed for a bit in some of the common seating area on Deck 5 and then left the ship in search of our bags. We were met almost immediately and taken to our bags and then escorted to the area we'd catch the water taxi. Getting in and out of a water taxi in Venice is not the easiest thing - we were glad we weren't handling the bags at all. It was a fairly quick trip on the water and by 10:00am we had arrived at Hotel Londra Palace. We didn’t realize at the time of booking that our private arrangement included an escort all the way to the check in counter of the hotel. We were being pampered.

      As we had anticipated, our room was not ready so we checked in and left our luggage for storage. We were offered to have breakfast at the hotel which would have been nice had we not already done so on the ship. We did get a city map and with that we set off to explore Venice. Within mere minutes Gary had a mishap with the main camera - smashing the filter on the 70-200mm zoom lens. The filter was a mess but it did appear that the lens itself was okay. The mishap happened while preparing to take a photo of the Bridge of Sighs - sighs, to be sure. It took a while to clean off all traces of the fine glass dust from the lens. At Piazza San Marco we could see that the lines for both Basilica San Marco & Campanile (bell tower) di San Marco were already long. We had previously been to the basilica as well as Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) so we were thinking not to repeat those experiences but wanted to head up to the bell tower to catch some views of the city. We made a mental note to check on this at the hotel to arrange the best way to go to the Campanile with the minimum of waiting in line. From the piazza we started our day's winding tour of the narrow alleys of Venice. Some areas were confusing and even with a map we made wrong choices and ended up at dead ends requiring us to backtrack. The wandering did reward us with some picturesque and surprising views as we walked through the maze of streets, alleys & bridges. We had a meandering plan to make our way to Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) over the Canal Grande. The famous bridge is something that we missed getting to see on our first visit to Venice and even though we made it there this time we more or less missed it again - most of Ponte di Rialto was covered while the bridge was being restored. We at least crossed over Ponte di Rialto and continued our walking tour of Venice. We did find some shops where we could get some things for gifts to take home and happened on a small camera shop. We went inside that shop in the hope of replacing the smashed lens filter for the 70-200mm lens. The old fellow inside the shop didn’t speak English and Gary didn’t speak Italian - but they both spoke camera and we were able to purchase a new filter as well as clean the camera lens prior to mounting the filter. That felt safer. It wasn't the best quality filter but would do for now and could be replaced with one of better quality once we were home.

      We were searching for Ponte dell'Accademia (Academia Bridge) for a way back across the Canal Grande so that we could return to the hotel to complete the check in process and get into our room. Next to the bridge we noticed a restaurant with a nice outside table area that we thought looked good for lunch. We selected a nice table and enjoyed a nice lunch. It was also our first opportunity to try a Spritz while in Venice. On our boat ride to Murano yesterday the tour guide was talking about this drink that was a Venetian favourite. When ordering it here at lunch we found out that there were options - so with a bit of discussion we learned that the one we were looking to order was made with Aperol. It was very refreshing and was going to become a white house favourite, no doubt. One interesting thing we also learned was that it was not always going to be possible to pay by credit card. We had seen someone pay by credit card but by the time we were paying it wasn’t possible - with them claiming that their internet connection was down so they couldn’t take credit or debit cards. We had cash to pay for lunch, but it was something we needed to keep in mind to make sure we had enough cash on hand if this happened again. As a post vacation note - this did seem to be an ongoing problem we experienced it again and heard servers telling people the same thing as we passed outside seating areas of restaurants all around Venice. To make sure we had enough cash on hand we stopped at a currency exchange only to find out we needed a passport to make the exchange. Our passports were still at the hotel pending the conclusion of the check in.

      Our room was ready upon our return and on first sight we were very happy with the choice. We were on the top floor of the hotel (actually in the roof) and the room was huge with two windows that gave us a wonderful view. We had powered window awnings that we could control with a remote to suit the sunlight conditions. Was an excellent room to be sure. It would do very nicely. After we unpacked the things we'd need for the short stay in Venice we headed back outside for more of a walking tour of the city. With passports back in our possession we did convert some currency to ensure we didn’t get caught somewhere that couldn’t take a credit card. On our next return to the hotel we sat in the outside area for the bar to enjoy another Spritz. For the evening we found a small restaurant not too far from our hotel for dinner that had a nice selection of seafood. Our server for the evening was good and it was an enjoyable dinner sitting outside. After dinner we were surprised to see how many places were shutting down. There didn’t seem to be much night life. We had heard some people on Azamara Journey who had stayed in the city for the Saturday night mention the same thing so what we were seeing might not have been just because it was Sunday night. It was a bit surprising.

  • Monday July 4, 2016

    Castello, San Giorgio and a gondola ride

    Waking early this morning gave us the incredible sight through our hotel room windows of Venice bathed in the early morning sun. It was a fantastic sight to be sure. We felt fortunate to catch it because the peak of the light conditions didn’t last long. Once we were ready we went down to have breakfast and sat outside to enjoy a nice buffet breakfast available at Hotel Londra Palace.

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      Before leaving the hotel we stopped at the front desk to get some recommendations. The first was for the best way to get tickets to the top of the Campanile di San Marco. We were surprised at the answer, because the recommendation was to not go there. Instead the concierge suggested that we should take a vaporetto (water bus) across to San Giorgio Maggiore and go to the bell tower of the church there. There were two reasons for this - to avoid the long line up at Campanile di San Marco and that the view from San Giorgio Maggiore is actually better. The second recommendation we wanted was for a starting point for a gondola ride. There were so many places you could get a gondola and the price was for a 30 minute daytime ride or a 35 minute nighttime ride - so the rides would be just in one small area and was likely to be a loop. The concierge gave us her recommendation of starting from the Gondola Station at Bacino Orseolo. Armed for the day with the information we set off to explore a bit more of Venice. Our starting point for this day was to head to Castello - the largest of the six boroughs of Venice. We had seen the historic naval complex called the Arsenale from the water on our way to Murano and thought it would be good to wander in this area of Venice to start our day. It was a nice walking tour near the naval yard and surrounding area and as we were merrily walking from there along this alley or turning at that alley that we all of a sudden realized we were back close to our hotel - we had gotten completely turned around. Was a bit funny, we thought we were heading in a completely different direction. Funny but embarrassing. Considering where we were now standing we adjusted our planned schedule a bit and figured it might as well be when we head over to San Giorgio Maggiore now that wee were just a few steps away from the vaporetto piers. We checked the route list and schedule to figure out where we needed to be to catch the correct bus and bought return fares. We didn't need to wait very long for our bus - the whole operation is quite slick.

      On San Giorgio Maggiore we first went inside the church - known as Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore and we were surprised how few people were inside. It was a beautiful church and worth visiting even if one wasn't going there to head up to the top of the bell tower. It was built between the late 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century and is the last of a series of churches on this location going as far back as the 8th century. After we had enjoyed the church we found the access point to the bell tower and paid to go up the elevator to what was listed as level 1 - the top of the bell tower. Seemed humorous to us. We were the only ones in the elevator and at the top of the bell tower there were people but not many. The views of Venice from the four sides of the bell tower were wonderful - we were so glad we had followed the recommendation from the Hotel Londra Palace concierge. It was still a bit overcast in Venice - we could have imagined how it would have appeared in better conditions. The views were still outstanding. After we left the church we walked a around San Giorgio Maggiore and considered having lunch on the small island but we didn’t see a place that suited us. We knew the schedule for the return trip on the water bus so that we could better time our return to the small pier and right on time the bus arrived to take us back across the lagoon. We found a spot on the water that we thought would do well for lunch outside and as we ate the day started to clear. Had we delayed an hour we might have seen Venice from San Giorgio under a blue sky. Oh, well.

      Next on our agenda was a gondola ride. We first had to locate an ATM machine to get a bit more cash. We had used more cash in Venice that we had anticipated - more than we'd used anywhere while travelling. We weren't used to paying so much with cash. We used one of our phones to give us a location of the ATMs and selected the one we'd try - it was interesting to us that we hadn't seen many as we wandered so it wasn’t a thing you could just stroll until you passed one. The bank/ATM we selected was fairly close to Piazza San Marco which meant it was easy to then navigate to Bacino Orseolo located also close to the piazza. On arrival to the area we could see where we need to go to get a gondola - there was a small line of people waiting. Immediately around Bacino Orseolo it was a busy spot for gondolas and we were initially wondering if we had made the right choice on starting point. The congestion didn’t last too long with it clearing as we moved away from the Gondola Station on a loop that took us along Rio Orseolo o del Coval, Rio del Scoacamini, Rio de San Savador, Canal Grande, Rio de San Luca, Rio del Fuseri and Rio Orseolo o del Coval back to the Gondola Station. It was a very enjoyable ride around a small portion of Venice that gave us a canal view of Ponte Rialto, City Hall, the Court of Justice and Marco Polo's house in among the regular beauty of Venice. A very worthwhile thing to do in Venice.

      For dinner we had booked a table at Ristorante Do Leoni at Hotel Londra Palace for 8:00pm. We had an amazing meal here and dinner here was a wonderful way to close out the culinary experience on this vacation. Following dinner we strolled for a bit and were surprised to see how much water there was in Piazza San Marco. All the low lying areas had water and some looked like large ponds. Like we had noticed before, things closed mostly by 10:00pm and there was no night life to be seen - at least not in the area of Venice we saw. After our stroll we made our way back to the hotel to close out our night. Tomorrow would be going home day.

  • Tuesday July 5, 2016

    Leaving Venice

    For our final morning in Venice we were up early to get ready and also finish any last minute packing before we went to breakfast for 7:00am. We sat outside at a table that we called 'our table' and had a nice breakfast while watching the early morning activity on the edge of the lagoon. The weather was looking beautiful and we mused on extending the stay just a bit longer.

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      We had arranged for another private water taxi but this time it would also be coupled with land transportation to get us to the airport. It was expensive but would be very easy for us. For the timing of our flight that meant we need to check out of the hotel at about 8:00am. After our breakfast we returned to our room to get ready and then head down to the front desk to check out. We were amazed to watch the porter take all four of our bags by hand to the pier where our water taxi was waiting. If we thought it was difficult before getting into a water taxi it was much more difficult this time - with the water level making the taxi quite a bit lower than the pier.

      The day was glorious as we travelled by water along the Canal Grande. Our water taxi stopped near Piazzale Roma where we transferred from the boat to a minivan for the final leg of the trip to the airport. Once we got to the airport it was very confusing. The airport was under construction and we had to walk back and forth and needed to leave the building to change levels between checking in and the gate location. The signs weren't clear in any language and we weren't the only ones confused by the mess. We shopped a bit though the terminal building and made it to the departure gate on time. The boarding of the plane was incredibly disorganized - a very odd set up. We did make it onboard and from that point on the experience was smooth. We were back in Toronto at about 3:00pm and it was very quick for us to get through the airport this time so within a short time we were at the limo stand and by 4:00pm we were at home. Our trip was officially done. It had been a fantastic vacation with lots of great memories.

      The only question now…where next?

Venice Image Gallery

First view of our hotel (Hotel Londra Palace) from the sail into Venice
Looking towards the entrance to Piazza San Marco from Azamara Journey
The entrance to the Canal Grande
Looking back to Piazza San Marco as Azamara Journey neared the pier
Shallow lagoon just outside the shipping lane
Gondola heading under the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri)
The Canal Grande viewed from our first lunch spot in Venice
Piazza San Marco
Wonderful view of Venice from our hotel room
One of Venice's famed gondoliers
One of the views from the bell tower of Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore
The view towards Hotel Londra Place from Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore
Basilica di San Marco
Gary & Linda in a gondola
Travelling along Canal Grande in our gondola
Tranquil travel on Rio de San Luca in a gondola
Evening view across the lagoon to Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore
Night view of Venice from our hotel room
About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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